Dream Keepers Needed

s2020137.jpgProtecting our dreams has become one of the most difficult tasks in our contemporary world. Almost every dream I’ve had has been accompanied by external assaults and self-sabotage. Many of my dreams have simply become compromises. Keeping focused on what matters most, as coach Bruce Elkin has called our dream quest, requires a moral and ethical courage of significant proportion.

Media remind us continuously about the horrors, terrors, and crimes which touch on almost everyone’s day to day life. “Our senses are bombarded with aggression,” warns Margaret Wheatley, acclaimed speaker and author of “Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time.” Violence, moral challenges, political shenanigans, and the unprecedented examples of leaders engaging in deceit, lying and cheating appear to be eradicating the positive stories and role models we have for engaging in the activities necessary to achieve our dreams.

Accountability Can Block Dream Fulfillment
Are we also noticing a significant increase in aggressive demands for retribution, punishment, or vengeance when another person or official makes a mistake and strays from his or her own dream path? Has the use of derogatory, demeaning, and disrespectful terms increased when describing someone who does not share our values and dreams? Has righteousness replaced forgiveness and compassion? Are those who have let their dream falter to be despised? Are their mistakes, errors in judgment, and immoral acts so large that retribution rather than justice is the only alternative? Has Western society exaggerated the meaning of accountability so that someone always has to pay? Has assigning blame outstripped identifying and fixing problems as a full-time pursuit?

Recent business news provides two strikingly different examples of blame and accountability. Millions of dollars have been spent identifying, prosecuting, and convicting executives associated with the Enron disaster in the United States. Thousands of employees lost their jobs and pensions; thousands of investors were bilked out of their savings. One of the executives associated with this mess received a 24-year prison sentence; another died from the stress, and still others received assorted prison sentences and punishments. “Heads must roll,” was the catch phrase of former employees, government officials, and the general public.

Contrast this with the actions taken by the Sony Corporation when it was discovered their laptop batteries, which are used by almost every major computer maker, had the potential to overheat and catch fire. Sony recalled the batteries and initiated a global replacement system. Such a defect clearly tarnished the Sony brand reputation, and the recall program alone cost Sony more than $430-million (U.S.). When Sony announced they had discovered the technical reasons for the defect, they issued an apology to the public and did not fire a single employee. “Take responsibility;  identify and fix the problem,” was the catch phrase that went through Sony.

Character Lapses Can Obscure the Dream Path
While assigning blame appears to have become an obsession in western culture, it has also been accompanied an unprecedented number of challenges to moral character. Television, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet are crammed with stories about people who were pillars of the community one day, and felons, predators, killers, or untrustworthy the next. In most cases these reports are about normal, everyday people who started off with a dream, but wound-up getting severely side-tracked.

Unfortunately, such detours are not just a case of increased reporting. Instead, there is evidence that many people are engaged in detours from their dreams. A recent study of 36,000 U.S. teens by the Josephson Institute of Ethics sadly revealed that 82% of the teens polled admitted they lied to a parent in the last 12 months about something significant; 57% said they lied two or more times; 62% admitted they lied to a teacher in the last 12 months about something significant; 60% cheated on a test at school within the last 12 months, including 27% who said they lied of the survey itself; and 28% stole something from a store in the past 12 months.

The Josephson study also found that 59% of the students agreed that “in the real world, successful people do what they have to do to win, even if others consider it cheating;” and 42% believed that “A person has to lie or cheat sometimes in order to succeed.”

Michael Josephson, the founder of the Josephson Institute, describes this disturbing set of statistics about American youth as a “hole in the moral ozone.” The results of the Institute’s study are consistent with other surveys conducted previously by the Institute. “It is clear,” Mr. Josephson concludes, “that dishonest habits and values have become deeply entrenched in the next generation of corporate executives, cops, politicians, journalists, generals, and parents.”

Dreams Are Always Present and Can Be Reborn
But there is hope. There is an opportunity to turn this situation around. The Josephson study also found that:

• 98% of all students polled said, “It’s important for me to be a person with good character.”
• 98% reported that “honesty and trust are essential in personal relationships.”
• 97% of the 36,000 young people polled said: “It’s important to me that people trust me.”
• 83% said: “It’s not worth it to lie or cheat because it hurts your character.”
• 94% said: “In business and the workplace, trust and honesty are essential.”
• 90% said: “Most adults in my life consistently set a good example of ethics and character.”

This discrepancy between the real world behavior (actions and cynical attitudes) of the young people polled in this survey, and their desire or “dream” about what is truly important in life, is one of the key reasons why coaches, mentors, and peer assistants are essential in today’s society. It is just too easy today for young people to become sidetracked from pursuing their dreams. There are no short cuts for the hard work and character building activities necessary for a dream to become a reality.

Coaches, mentors, and peer assistants are in the best position to help people to articulate their dreams, to recognize the detours that interfere with dream progress, and to learn from their detours. Young people particularly need opportunities to learn how to make better choices to stay true to their path. Our willingness to listen, to express curiosity, and to encourage the expression of passion enables us to join with others to reconnect with their true path.

No one is completely immune from lapses in moral fibre or character. We all have events or actions in our lives that carry forward regret, shame, or guilt. But having a peer coach or mentor in our lives enables us to accept and use a lapse as a way to illuminate more clearly where we desire to be and how we can move toward that destination.

Coaches, mentors, and peer assistants are more often than not role models as well as skilled practitioners. This doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced their share of troubles, difficulties, and detours. What it does mean is that coaches, mentors, and peer assistants are more likely to have turned such life experiences into growth opportunities. Their ability to share their lives and connect in a supportive, non-judgmental, appreciative manner with their clients, partners, networks and communities contributes greatly to helping others reduce the gap between their current reality and the dreams they hope to achieve.

Everyone deserves to have their dreams protected. Everyone deserves to have someone in their life to help them rekindle the flame that powers their dream. I’m glad to be part of that dream protection team and grateful that so many others have had that impact on me.

References
de Zulueta, F. (2007). From pain to violence: The traumatic roots of destructiveness. New York: Wiley.

Elkin, B. (April 11, 2006). Coaching for creating what matters MOST. Simplicity and Success: A Life Coaching Newsletter about Creating What Matters Most, 4, 5. (Retrieved June 25, 2006 from http://www.bruceelkin.com/newsletter/news_vol4_06.html )

Gray, A., Stephens, S., and Van Diest, J. (2006). Simple living for the worn out woman (Lists to live by). Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers.

Josephson Institute of Ethics (October 15, 2006). The biennial report card – 2006: The ethics of American youth. Los Angeles, California: Author. (Retrieved October 15, 2006 from http://www.josephsoninstitute.org/reportcard/ )

Merrill, R.R., Covey, S.R. (2006). The SPEED of trust: The one thing that changes everything. New York: Free Press.

Renard, G. (2004). The disappearance of the universe: Straight talk about illusions, past lives, religion, sex, politics, and the miracles of forgiveness. Carlsbad, California: Hay House.

Roehlkepartain, E.C., Ebstyne King, P., Wagener, L., and Benson, P.L. (Eds.) (2006). The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Tolle, E. (2004). The power of now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment. Novato, California: New World Library.

Wheatley, M. (2004). Solving, not attacking complex problems. A five-state approach based on ancient practice. (Retrieved October 10, 2006 from http://www.margaretwheatley.com/articles/solvingnotattacking.html )

Wheatley, M. (2005). Finding our way: Leadership for an uncertain time. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Wolfe, D.A., Jaffe, P.G., and Crooks, C.V. (2006). Adolescent risk behaviors: Why teens experiment and strategies to keep them safe. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Masaru Emoto (1943-2014): The Godfather of Water: Remembering His Legacy

Masaru_EmotoAuthor, researcher, and entrepreneur, Dr. Emoto’s passion was teaching his “Messages in Water.” He trained over 350 instructors from around the world to teach new generations about the truth and sacredness of water as he outlined in his book, Hidden Messages from Water and the Universe.

His followers and those he mentored believe their lives were changed personally and collectively by his pioneering research which they believe resulted in a wave of transformation, awakening and shift in collective consciousness around the planet.

Those he mentored believe he gave them a greater sense of themselves and an ability to create positive change by shifting their thoughts, words, emotions and intentions. Louise Hay said his work “gave me a new respect for water. I began blessing with love every glass of water I drank. Labels with positive words and affirmations soon appeared on my faucets, showerhead, garden watering cans, the toilets, every other water source I had, and all the many bottles of water I carried everywhere.”

His last words were “Arigatou”. (“Thank you” in Japanese), which in Japanese means to be grateful for our own existence.

Walter Cronkite (1916-2009): Remembering His Legacy

179_walter-cronkitenewsWalter Cronkite was one of the most recognizable and trusted journalists of the last 60 years. No other figure prompted as many young people to pursue journalism as a profession. And very few journalists provided as much mentoring to others as Mr. Cronkite. “Like many other aspiring journalists,” said Gordon Joseloff, “I grew up watching Walter and idolizing him. I was watching when he told us John Kennedy had died, when he said the conflict in Vietnam could no longer be won, and when man walked on the moon.”

When millions of Americans heard: “Direct from our newsroom in New York, this is the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite,” hundreds started to dream of launching a career in broadcasting.

Bob Schieffer, who anchored the Saturday edition of the CBS Evening News from 1973 to 1996 said, “Walter used to talk to the reporters, he’d call you out on the beat – ‘what’s going on, why did they say this, why did they do 179_bob-schiefferthat.’ But, on those days when Walter would call you after the broadcast and say, ‘good job on that tonight,’ you really felt good about it because that was the highest compliment you could get.”

179_danratherDan Rather, who succeeded his mentor as the anchor of the CBS Evening News (1981-2005), said of his mentor in a report to NewsBusters: “Walter’s instructions to us in the field were always, you know, ‘Tell it straight without fear or favoritism. Pull no punches. Say it like it is, insofar as is humanly possible. Keep your own prejudices and biases and feelings and emotions out of it.’” Mr. Rather described his mentor as a person “who took the news seriously, but he didn’t take himself all that seriously.”

179_katie-couricKatie Couric, a journalist who moved from NBC to CBS and became the first solo female anchor of a major US-TV network, also recalls Walter Cronkite as her mentor. Ms. Couric saw him as a standard setter, who could balance objectivity with compassion and emotion. “I admired his honor, integrity and decency, and his spirit lives on in a very palpable way in the hallways of CBS.”

“His legacy is extraordinary,” she recently said in an interview show. “I get so inspired when I re-read something he wrote. When I got the job at CBS he took me out to dinner and told me about some of his greatest thrills as a journalist. And in every story he emphasized how important it was to be fair and objective. When he talked about President Kennedy’s funeral he got teary and I started to cry. But he also beamed with joy when he talked about the first space capsule. His voice was full of the enthusiasm of a child. I took to heart one of his most important perspectives on the news: ‘Get it first, but get it right.’”

The American public knew Mr. Cronkite for his objectivity, seriousness, and fact-based reporting, but less known was his playful nature outside of the newsroom. As reported in The New York Observer, Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes, told an anecdote about Mr. Cronkite’s sense of humor. “A new reporter had arrived while we were at Cape Canaveral,” said Mr. Hewitt, “and Walter said to him, ‘If you just keep looking at that rocket there on that green patch at the end of the runway there, you’ll see it blast off. Just don’t take your eyes off it.’ The guy sat there for six hours waiting for it to go off. It was a lighthouse.”

Mr. Cronkite also demonstrated that being a journalist did not mean withholding opinions. He believed, for example, that “America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” He also noted the limits of a mentoring relationship when he said about Dan Rather: “He and I just aren’t especially chummy.” He also was concerned about leading a balanced life and said “I think somebody ought to do a survey as to how many great, important men have quit to spend time with their families who spent any more time with their family.”

Mr. Cronkite had a passion for sailing and New Orleans jazz. The New York Times reported that Mr. Cronkite liked to exchange off-color jokes with Ronald Reagan and “whimsically competed with his friend Johnny Carson to see who could take the most vacation time without getting fired.” (Source: New York Observer)

Partly because of his significant influence as a mentor, Arizona State University (ASU) established The Walter Cronkite Mentorship Program at the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This program pairs students in the graduate program with experienced journalists.

Mr. Cronkite was clearly the most trusted journalist of all time. While I didn’t know him personally he taught me a valuable lesson that I have never forgotten and that I use continuously, and for which I owe him a debt of gratitude.

179_reyatsfstateDuring my graduate student days at San Francisco State University (then called San Francisco State College), I was, like students all across the US, actively involved in protesting the American war in Vietnam. My generation of anti-Vietnam war protestors owes him a significant debt. The efforts to end the US involvement in Vietnam through the mobilization of the largest anti-war movement in the history of the United States met with limited success.

But on February 27, 1968, US President Lyndon Johnson watched Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News comment that the Vietnam war was not winnable and an end must be negotiated, “not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.” President Johnson is reported to have responded by saying, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Several weeks later President Johnson stunned a nation-wide TV audience when he announced he would not seek reelection.

The mentoring lesson I learned from Mr. Cronkite was that significant and lasting change can only come about from trust. It is seldom achieved through protest or aggression. I have carried that learning on in my work as a peer assistant, coach, mentor, employee, and CEO, as well as in my personal life with my family and friends.

“And that’s the way it is.”